As many of you know, I love comic cons. I love the atmosphere, I love seeing celebrities whose work I enjoy, I like cruising artists’ alley, looking for some new take on an old favorite. I even love watching people flip about guests and cosplayers that I wouldn’t necessarily give a second glance to, because they’re not my thing, because it’s fun to see people happy. Comic cons are a place to go to simply enjoy living, and not worry about anything that is happening outside the doors.
But now, even this 2-3 day bit of escapism is being slowly encroached upon by the outside world, by the insidiousness of politics and intolerance.
It should be no surprise to anyone that celebrities, just like all us “normal” people, have opinions when it comes to politics and social issues. They’re humans, so they have opinions.
Some celebrities keep their views to themselves, as they’re not relevant to their ability to sing a song, deliver a Shakespearean monologue, depict a beloved superhero in beautiful detail, or perform death-defying stunts in an action movie. Others are very outspoken about their political views, choosing to use the notoriety they have gained from their professions as a platform from which to voice, inform, plead, shame, blame, harass, or even threaten (depending on the individual and topic at hand) those who do not share those views on topics of importance to them. Still others will answer if asked about a specific topic, but otherwise remain silent.
To be clear: none of these approaches is any more right or wrong than any other, because this is America, and we all enjoy the right to both hold an opinion others may disagree with or even find offensive, but also to voice said opinion. It is one of the many blessings we hold as citizens of the greatest nation the planet has ever known.
Now, though, the idea of stifling words, of ideas, is presenting a most elegant and, perhaps, appropriate target in our nation: the Nazi movement. There are few who would argue Nazi ideology is right, moral, or in keeping with what America strives to be every day, but the idea of simply removing their right to speak instead of countering that speech and those ideas with better ideas or more passionate speech is also not in keeping with the spirit of what we, as Americans, aspire to be.
Director Rob Reiner, a well-known democrat/liberal, directed a movie called The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin, and while I don’t necessarily agree with either of their political stands, or even every viewpoint their fictional president holds to, I agree wholeheartedly with this incredible bit of monologue about America:
Too often, we simply fall back on the idea that “I don’t want to hear that, so you can’t say it.” While easier, it is certainly not American, but now even comic cons are being faced with this dilemma: should they invite celebrities/authors/artists whose professional work is valued within the pop-culture zeitgeist, but whose personal viewpoints might be found offensive, or even hateful, to some percentage of the attendees of such an event?
Is it the responsibility of the convention organizers to play gatekeeper to the personal ideas of professional people who, in a vacuum, would be considered a no-brainer of an invitation? Or is it their responsibility to simply book guests whose work is representative of the event and who are appreciated by the fans and allow fans to choose for themselves whether to interact with that person?
I will not comment on which guests seem to garner the most resistance, or by extension, from which groups that resistance comes, but will simply reiterate that I believe it is not anyone’s place to tell me who I can and cannot see at an event dedicated to the honoring of work, not of politics.
I’m a big boy. I can think for myself. I don’t need someone deciding who can or cannot attend a convention because of their politics, and if someone does believe they have the right to dictate that, perhaps they should go ahead and stop those people from working on otherwise unrelated projects, so as not to sully them with their presence. Perhaps we can generate a list of those writers/artists/performers who will be unable to work because of that.
Or, perhaps, we can all exercise another gift, that of free will. The ability to look away, to change the channel, to keep our wallets closed, without demanding others do the same because that’s the way we feel.
But by all means, speak up about those things in which you believe passionately. That is your right. But to simply demand others not be allowed that same right? To replace their free will with yours?
Well, there’s a word for that, isn’t there?